The doctor is in


Photo by Carol Dukes

A Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) is the highest Educational Leadership degree one can earn, and after six and a half years, two school transitions, one dissertation, and many hours of coursework, Principal Ashburn has finally become a “Doctor”.

  Dr. Elena Ashburn completed her doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over the last six and a half years. Earning a doctorate is a complex task and requires many hours of work and determination. Many challenges face a student along the way to earning his or her doctorate.

  “It was actually harder to manage my own time when I was having to write the dissertation because that’s really all self-guided. And in six and a half years, I became a principal at East Garner, then at Broughton and those are two really big transitions that require a lot of time. Also, I have little kids so it made [earning my doctorate] a little more of a challenge,” said Ashburn.

  She was a practitioner, or a part-time student, at the University. For five years, she would go to classes in Chapel Hill to complete coursework. During that time, Ashburn also completed her Educational Specialist License.

  “I did coursework for the first five years, every semester and I earned an Educational Specialist License. That is a superintendent’s license. Just like teachers have to [have a license to] teach, you also have to earn a license to be a superintendent,” Ashburn said.

  Earning the Educational Specialist License requires an internship that usually lasts one semester.

  “I did my internship for a semester with one of the area superintendents in the spring of 2014. After that, I basically worked on my dissertation for the last couple of years,” Ashburn stated.

  A dissertation is a long and detailed essay on a particular subject. The dissertation is one of the longest processes while working towards a doctorate since it is all self-guided. Once all of the information and data is collected, a student must defend their dissertation in front of a panel of faculty members.

  “My dissertation was a qualitative study of the gender gap in the North Carolina superintendency,” Ashburn said.

  Some want a doctorate for higher job status or a higher salary, but Dr. Ashburn did it to prove to herself that she could do anything to which she set her mind.

  “I think the biggest thing it did for me is it shows me that anything is possible if you create a goal, set the goal and work on the goal. A doctorate is not something that you earn in a short amount of time, you have to work at it…Also, I think for me I wanted to show my daughters that I could be a working mom and also get a doctorate,” Ashburn said.

  So what should you call her? Dr. Ashburn? Mrs. Ashburn? Principal Ashburn?

  “I don’t care if people call me Dr. Ashburn or not. It’s not insulting to me if someone doesn’t say it. Either way, it doesn’t bother me.”